Utah gymnastics: Utes headed to Arkansas for regionals

Published March 24, 2014 6:49 pm

College gymnastics • Fifth-ranked Utes in a tough crowd for regional meet.
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Utah's gymnastics team has received a trophy and a lot of recognition for winning the school's first Pac-12 championship.

What the Utes didn't get was a break when the NCAA committee determined the fields for the 2014 Regional Championships.

The Utes will compete with No. 8 UCLA, No. 17 Arkansas, No. 24 Arizona State, Utah State and UC Davis in Fayetteville, Ark., on April 5.

BYU will compete in the Seattle regional, and SUU will compete in Minneapolis.

The top two teams from each of the six regionals will advance to the NCAA Championships April 18-20 in Birmingham, Ala.

Utah is the only school that has qualified for all 32 NCAA Championships.

Since the seedings are based primarily on rankings, the Utes had a hunch they might be headed south to a place in which they've never visited.

"We know all those teams are going to put up a good fight," senior Mary Beth Lofgren said. "You just have to go in with the attitude you can go out and do it."

While Utah's gymnasts are unfamiliar with Arkansas, Utah's coaches aren't. Coach Greg Marsden grew up in Clarksville, a small town less than 100 miles from Fayetteville, and assistant coach Tom Farden was an assistant with Arkansas in 2010 before joining the Utes.

"I am going home," Marsden quipped.

He hopes the trip down memory lane doesn't turn into some nightmare, like a bad family reunion.

While the Utes will be favored to advance, Marsden acknowledged it will be tough to beat Arkansas on its home floor.

"Those are the tough ones, when you are going up against a team that is the third seed at home, you never know what can happen," he said. "You look at the tradition of those teams and the history and you know it's going to be tough. We have to go in and do our job, there is no doubt about that. We can't take anything for granted."

The Utes will be going up against the Bruins for a fourth time this season. Utah is 2-1 against UCLA, with the most recent win coming at Saturday's Pac-12 Championships in Berkeley.

Utah won the school's first Pac-12 title with a 197.925 while UCLA slipped to fourth with a 196.525.

Arkansas was the sixth seed at the SEC Championships but finished seventh the meet, won by Alabama.

"Both of those teams struggled at their conference meets and sometimes that lights a fire under a team," Marsden said. "It's going to be a tough meet, but they are all tough from here on out."

The Utes did get a favorable rotation and will start on a bye then the uneven bars.

The rotation means the Utes will finish on their best two events, floor then vault.

"Anywhere we go, you are going to have to go and compete and do a good job to advance," Corrie Lothrop said. "UCLA has been to a lot of nationals and they are a great team, but it's always nice to go and see new faces. We'll be ready for whatever is thrown at us." —

NCAA gymnastics regionals

April 5, Fayetteville, Ark.

• No. 5 Utah, No. 8 UCLA, No. 17 Arkansas, No. 24 Arizona State, Utah State, UC-Davis

University Park, Pa.

• No. 1 Florida, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 15 Penn State, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire

Seattle, Wash.

• No. 4 Alabama, No. 9 Nebraska, No. 16 Boise State, No. 20 Denver, No. 25 BYU, Washington

Minneapolis, Minn.

• No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 11 Illinois, No. 14 Minnesota, No. 19 Cal, SUU, San Jose St.

Athens, Ga.

• No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Michigan, No. 18 Central Michigan, No. 22 Ohio State, North Carolina State, Rutgers

Baton Rouge

• No. 3 LSU, No. 10 Stanford, No. 13 Auburn, No. 21 Arizona, Kent State, Iowa State —

NCAA gymnastics rankings

1. Florida 197.895

2. Oklahoma 197.775

3. LSU 197.72

4. Alabama 197.615

5. Utah 197.575

6. Georgia 197.265

7. Michigan 197.105

8. UCLA 197.005

9. Nebraska 196.95

10. Stanford 196.815

11. Illinois 196.65

12. Oregon St. 196.615

13. Auburn 196.56

14. Minnesota 196.505

15. Penn St. 196.475

16. Boise St. 196.395

17. Arkansas 196.355

18. Central Mich. 196.3

19. California 196.27

20. Denver 196.205

21. Arizona 196.16

22. Ohio St. 195.905

23. New Hampshire 195.88

24. Arizona St. 195.855

25. BYU 195.82